Artistic talent, good food and community networking are the goals of three recently-opened businesses on the Sterling Highway in downtown Soldotna.
A clothing store called Mountain Mama Originals, a food truck called Where It’s At and a clothing and repurposed furniture store called Artzy Junk all enjoyed their grand opening June 6.
Their owners are Soldotna natives and have come together to fill what they feel is an artistic void in the area.
“We, as a community, don’t have anything that grabs us together,” said Mountain Mama Originals owner and clothing designer Susanna Evins. “We have lots of fishing guides and other things, but we really lack catering to the locals. If the tourism benefits from it, that’s great too, but this is definitely for our people.”
Evins creates retail and custom clothing for women, made to be comfortable and with local materials. She has been designing clothes for nearly 15 years, and spent a month renovating her new Soldotna location prior to opening.
Together with Willow King, owner of Where It’s At, and Sue Mann, owner of Artzy Junk, she hopes to create a relaxed, welcoming environment for local artists, vendors and musicians to thrive.
According to King, there is power in numbers.
“We have some good variety in our community, but a lot of times it’s so spread out,” she said. “We kind of have to combine forces I think, because otherwise people just keep driving by for years and years and never know you’re there.”
King said the building behind her truck will soon become a community-use space, which she hopes will be utilized as a spot to meet, congregate and create.
“You could sit in there and eat this food, or you could sit in there and nurse, or you could meet with your book club,” King said. “We’d really like to expand into a little bit of a venue.”
Where It’s At will run from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. King will feature daily soups and sweets, along with an ever-changing, local special. She said her own diet restrictions and the difficulty she meets finding good, quality ingredients were motivations behind her business model.
Before opening Artzy Junk, Mann was known through her local label, Designed by Sioux. Her shop hosts an eclectic mix of clothing, repurposed furniture, her own photography and art created by her friend and owner of Prints of Peace, Lori Sisson.
Mann said the three businesses are meant to complement each other as fun places where members of the community can come together. Artzy Junk will be open from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. from Wednesday through Saturday.
All three business owners are planning a festival for the third week in August. Other artists and vendors will be invited to come share their wares.
The circle of shops is only set to expand.
Evins said a yarn shop will open next to Artzy Junk in June.
For Evins, opening shop with her fellow business owners was about more than just goods and services. They are focused on fostering an artistic, caring community.
“I feel like we are not as hands on, and I think we have been so removed, we don’t know where many things come from and we don’t really seem to care,” Evins said. “We’re so busy with our head down, we don’t really realize what we’re buying and what we’re voting on as a society. When we go to, say, Willow’s place, we’re voting for organic, healthy (food), and when you come to my shop, you’re wanting something where you can say, ‘OK, I’m good. I don’t need a jacket for the next ten years.’”
Mountain Mama Originals is open from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. on Saturdays.